Ontario’s Collingwood halts construction as it discovers water demand outpacing capacity

Town staff are in discussions with the Town of New Tecumseth and the Town of the Blue Mountains to potentially reduce the amount of water supplied to these municipalities until the water treatment plant expansion is complete. Photo Credit: Creative Commons Zero, Public Domain Dedication

As the Ontario Town of Collingwood pauses local construction for a year to assess its dwindling drinking water and wastewater treatment capacity, local officials are also revisiting the amount of water the town supplies to neighbouring municipalities.

The ongoing process is tied to understanding Collingwood’s growth potential amid a recent significant increase in development applications. An Environmental Assessment has been completed for the expansion of Collingwood’s Raymond A. Barker Water Treatment Plant, local officials say, but the build will not be completed until 2025. In the meantime, Collingwood Town Council has approved an Interim Control Bylaw that restricts development which does not already have a building permit, in part to conserve water.

“We’ve recently confirmed that the demand for drinking water is greater than the supply,” Collingwood’s Chief Administrative Officer Sonya Skinner told Town Council at its April 26 meeting. “Some of the questions that have been brought forward, and rightfully, is why didn’t we know this sooner,” she added.

Town staff are also in discussions with the Town of New Tecumseth and the Town of the Blue Mountains to potentially reduce the amount of water supplied to these municipalities until the water treatment plant expansion is complete.

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“Council deliberated at length, and considered all the information provided by staff, our solicitors, the deputations this evening, and written submissions, before coming to a very difficult decision that we all know will have significant impacts in the community,” announced Collingwood Mayor Brian Saunderson in a statement. “However, the implications of not taking this pause on development were potentially much more severe. This is not our first choice, but we are in a situation that demands action,” he added.

In addition to expanding the water treatment plant, built in 1998, town officials also want to advance construction of a chlorine contact tank that will increase capacity. A review of the plant’s disinfection calculations in 2018 determined that the town was approaching the upper limit of the existing WTP’s disinfection capabilities during winter, while remaining within drinking water quality aesthetic targets for chlorine.

In terms of drinking water, the rated capacity of the Collingwood WTP is 31,140 m3/day. However, this capacity is not available in the winter months due to limited chlorine contact tankage at the plant. The planned expansion would take the plant to a capacity of 51,871 m3 per day. The new chlorine tank would allow the plant to operate at its full rate capacity under all temperature and raw water conditions “while providing the required disinfection by chlorination without increasing the potential for taste and odour concerns by customers,” town staff wrote.

The annual average day flow at Collingwood’s wastewater treatment plant from 2018 through 2020 is nearing the 80% trigger for warranting expansion, according to a town staff report.

Collingwood also has water supply agreements with the Town of New Tecumseth and the Town of the Blue Mountains. Water supply agreements with these neighbouring municipalities account for approximately 35% of the rated capacity of the water treatment plant. When the winter constraints of the disinfection infrastructure are taken into consideration, these agreements result in a commitment of more than 50% of the treatment capacity of the water treatment plant. Over the past five years, the combined water demand from all three municipalities has fluctuated, with a five year average of 24,049 m3 per day.

Current water supply agreements are leading to an “overcommitment” in the winter months, according to town staff.

“Although these calculations indicate that there is insufficient water supply to service existing customers and future development while waiting for the WTP expansion to be completed, there are solutions that can be implemented to mitigate the water supply capacity issue in the interim,” states a report by Peggy Slama, Director of Public Works, Engineering & Environmental Services for the Town of Collingwood.

 Town of Collingwood – April 26, 2021 Council Meeting

To help Collingwood businesses and residents understand more about the current pause on development and the water capacity issue, local officials have added an engagement page online.

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  1. Simply drastically cut demand with extreme water conservation like the City of Guelph. Large rebates are available there. Also change the billing so the fixed charge is smaller so large conservation projects bring large dollar savings.


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